Several years ago, I came home for a visit with my parents. Somewhere in the course of a week, I had dinner with my two cousins Danielle and Shay. Despite being very close, our childhood memories might suggest otherwise. One memory shared common ground with our texts from this morning.
My cousins were gifted at antagonizing me—even making fun of me—for finding great security in my baby blanket. Perhaps I was a little bit like Linus, the character from Charlie Brown who could not let go of the blue blanket because it gave him security. To be mean, my cousin would hide it at bed time just to see me cry. At the dinner table, my extended family howled as they remembered that I carried my favorite baby blanket well past a normal age! My mother thinks the only reason I did not take it to college with me was because I was afraid its frail, ratty remains would have finally disintegrated. I couldn’t sleep without it. And it dawns me as we approach the Word this morning that all people want security and control in their lives. Whether we count ourselves as young or old, that childlike need for security never dims. The question for the person of faith is “What do I do now?” I mean, it seems we come by it naturally, so why not simply go with the flow since everyone else is doing it. The answer is, “because the Bible tells me so.” Let us, then, look more closely at what the Bible has to say.
Our readings from the Old and New Testaments unveil a strategy for continuing in our journey as followers of Jesus Christ. The Proverbs caution against such unholy behaviors as wandering lustful or greedy eyes, intentional lying, or hurting the weak with our words. Holiness, after all, is not defined by the natural, and often darker, human inclinations. But in Christ we are freed to love as God loves and therefore behave as Christ does. Instead of being dishonest, we can be truthful.
Proverbial wisdom stresses doing what is faithful above doing what is convenient. Such inconvenience is evident in the New Testament passage. Dressed in nothing more than the clothes on their backs, the followers of Jesus are commanded by Jesus to leave to do ministry.
Imagine the scene with me. It was time for followers to go out on their own to bear witness to what they had seen and heard in this man called Jesus Christ and the power and love of his kingdom. As Jesus says his final good-byes he calls out, “hey, I know you don’t know how long you will be gone, or where you will actually be going, but I want you to travel light so you won’t get bogged down with stuff. Don’t take any luggage!!! If the account were written in the modern vernacular, it would read “Don’t take anything that gives you the security to which you cling to tightly. Don’t take your cell phone, fitbit or debit card”, We don’t know how the followers reacted to this news, but I know how I, as an American living in 2017 would be reluctant to give up the conveniences of life. Jesus says : “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals…” Without any promise of security, we are commanded to live by faith not by sight.
The passage says they walk out two by two. It seems to hearken back to the story of Noah’s ark in which the animals are shepherded onto an ark to protect them from a flood. It suggests that carrying good news into the world requires a partner in ministry. It requires support and friendship. Like the animals on the ark, the followers are assured that they will be protected and provided for.
People who follow Jesus are making a serious commitment. As if we are standing at a fork in the road, we have choices to make. Making the choice to be faithful, however, can be a struggle. We may not feel ready, but Christ is ready for us to do ministry and has equipped us. Jesus Christ, many times, has more confidence in his followers than they do.
You see, Jesus had already prepared his followers by moving in their lives. Jesus told them that their Lord was sufficient for their need of security; they did not need anything else but to trust. This security gives us a feeling of being ready for whatever lays ahead no matter what. Jesus tells us that our real security does not rest on stock markets, money, other people or food. Though each impacts our lives, as people of faith we are asking about the very nature of our purpose in the world. Are we meant to fret about the undiscovered future or live with freedom knowing that life will be ok? Perhaps that is the greatest question before us.
Let us not allow are faith to falter in the face of adversity and anxiety of the future. Instead, let us trust that the God of all goodness will provide security and goodness for all of our days. May we all live with integrity, honesty, love and gentleness and move into the world for ministry. Indeed, that is good news! Amen.
Rev. Noelle H. Read
CPC July 9, 2017